“ Ice rink, bungy dome and other attractions „
Every winter Princes Street Gardens in the centre of Edinburgh is transformed into a winter wonderland with an ice rink, fairground, visits from Santa and his reindeer and much more. A visit to the gardens during December is guaranteed to get all members of the family into the Christmas spirit.
East Princes street Gardens is the venue for the ice rink. The ice rink is open from 10am to 10pm in December and skate hire is included in the ticket price. This is always a popular attraction and you can see people of all ages enjoying trying their hands at skating, some cautious people barely let go of the side while others whizz around confidently and they all have a smile on their face. The ice rink is kept in good condition with sweeping machines regularly sweeping the surface and stewards look after the skaters. There is also a separate rink for young children so they can skate on special double bladed skates without having to worry about older skaters bashing into them.
There are wooden viewing platforms for those who just want to watch the skating for a while, stalls nearby sell a range of food and drink including amazing hot chocolate with whipped cream and extra chocolate sprinkled over the top with seating so you can sit and relax and enjoy the sights and sounds going on around you.
West Princess Street Gardens is where the little ones will find real reindeer living in pens and be able to pet them. Their owner, a Mr Claus, pops in several times a day to check on his animals, talk to the kids and personally collect letters which have been left in his post-box and the smiles on the children's faces is a delight to see. There are also free shows for kids every at 11 am with jugglers and clowns making an appearance.
The funfair next to the Wallace Monument has old fashioned fairground rides, a helter skelter, carousel, flying chair-o-planes and gentler rides for the little ones. The highlight of the funfair has got to be the massive big wheel which is transported from M&D's theme park for the winter and is 33 metres tall, each car on the big wheel comfortably holds 4 people and travels slowly round letting you watch all the fun from high in the air and also has views over to Edinburgh castle and the main shopping street.
An event that is worth visiting is the Great Scottish Santa run which is held in mid December every year to raise money for children's charities. The aim is to have the most Santas running for charity in one place, in 2009 over 1500 runners donned Santa suits to complete the 1.5 mile run around the gardens raising £32000 and providing a sight not to be missed.
The atmosphere in the winter wonderland seems to change as night falls, it gets dark as early as 4pm and the whole area is transformed into a breathtakingly beautiful display of lights and sounds and although it is just as busy the noise seems muffled. The trees around the garden are lit up by simple strings of white coloured lights, the ice rink and other attractions are floodlit and the bright coloured lights from the funfair rides all combine to look like a scene from inside a snowdome.
I visit Edinburgh's winter wonderland every year, it has become a family tradition to go skating, visit the German market and warm up with a cup of hot chocolate before we visit the shops for some Christmas shopping. It's a festival which will really get you in the festive mood and as it is just minutes from both the tourist attractions and shopping precincts in Edinburgh can be combined with other activities for a fabulous day out.